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Lessons from aerospace

What can the superyacht market learn from how the aerospace industry manages its supply chain?

During The Superyacht Forum 2019, vice president of quality cabin programme at Airbus Corporate Jets Frank Rattey delivered a thought-provoking keynote about the processes and systems that Airbus apply in the aerospace industry and, specifically, the business jet sector. While process-wise the two industries are very different, Rattey’s comments regarding supply chain management struck a chord with the superyacht market.

The company has a global supplier footprint, encompassing over 19,000 suppliers, which delivers over two million parts a day. With safety being the number one priority of the aerospace industry, Airbus needs robust quality standards and the key to this is a highly efficient supply chain.

As well as constantly monitoring its supply chain’s performance in terms of quality and timeliness, Airbus places great importance on its relationships with suppliers. “We rely on our first-tier suppliers to manage their own chains of suppliers, so we treat them more as partners,” explains Rattey, reflecting an attitude that is very applicable to yachting.

The process to identify partners, as opposed to suppliers, is therefore a long one and certain factors are seriously considered, the most important of which is financial security. “For Airbus, financial health is one of the key selection criteria for suppliers,” Rattey adds. “We put a lot of liabilities on the suppliers and, in the case of an incident, we expect our suppliers to be able to fulfil financial obligations.”

This point is very relatable to the superyacht industry, which can be guilty of ‘squeezing’ suppliers down on prices but, just as Airbus expects suppliers to fulfil financial obligations in case of an incident, so should superyacht builders. The consensus from the panel during the discussion was that everyone needs to be making a reasonable profit from a project. The industry needs to have a longer-term perspective on supplier partnerships and revenue stream so that the whole supply chain shares a common goal of long-term performance.

Image: Frank Rattey speaking at The Superyacht Forum

 

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